July 9, 2008

Schools Get ‘A’ On State’s Report Card

By Ronnie Blair, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Jul. 9--LAND O' LAKES -- Superintendent Heather Fiorentino was ready to do a little bragging Tuesday after the Florida Department of Education released the state's annual report card that grades schools and school districts.

The Pasco County School District, a perennial B, earned an A this year.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Fiorentino said.

For individual schools in the district, there were 29 A's, 20 B's, 17 C's and two D's. Pasco has never had an F school.

The D schools were Ridgewood High in New Port Richey and Cox Elementary in Dade City.

The D for Cox, a school that faces a major reorganization because of repeatedly falling short on efforts to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, was a surprise to district officials. They had focused on trying to improve the school this year.

Although disappointed, Fiorentino said she is optimistic the extra effort eventually will pay off.

"You have a strong staff over there that has worked extremely hard trying different strategies," she said. "They are going to come around."

Thirteen schools in Pasco improved by a letter grade, and one school, Quail Hollow Elementary, jumped from a C to an A.

Gulf High, a D school a year ago, improved to a C. Fiorentino also pointed to Pasco High, a B school this year that was a D school two years ago.

"They continue to work hard every day," Fiorentino said.

Schools that earn an A or improve a letter grade are eligible for recognition money, though this year the state reduced the amount to $85 a student, down from the usual $100.

School grades are based on how well students perform on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests for reading, math and science.

Although Pasco schools performed well on the state's report card, they didn't fare as well when measured by the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act.

Just five schools made adequate yearly progress under the act. They were: Lake Myrtle Elementary, Richey Elementary, Sand Pine Elementary, Trinity Elementary and Trinity Oaks Elementary.

Unlike Florida's accountability system, which grades schools as a whole, No Child Left Behind looks at subgroups of students based on race, family income and disabilities.

If any subgroup scores poorly in reading, writing or math, the entire school fails.

That's why a school such as Quail Hollow can jump two letter grades and still not be considered up to snuff by the federal government.

Pasco's performance this year was worse than last year, when 12 schools made adequate yearly progress, but better than two years ago when just one school met the standard.

"There's a lot of fluctuation in AYP from year to year," said Peggy Jones, the district's director of research and evaluation.

Reporter Ronnie Blair can be reached at (813) 948-4218 or [email protected]


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